The US in the Pacific
by Dr Hannah Middleton
The central goal of the United States is control of the planet, power to install governments subservient to its demands, power to privatise and deregulate the economies of every nation in the world, the power to inflict on peoples everywhere “free market” corporate capitalism.
However, serious economic crises and competition, together with growing resistance by the peoples of many countries, are creating many difficulties for the US empire.
Far from being a locomotive of growth and development, the US economy is parasitic, feeding on exploitation of the labour and resources of other countries. The parasitism of the US economy can only be sustained by major capital flows from the rest of the world.
In these conditions, military capacity to impose and maintain “stability” for US investments, and to guarantee its secure control of strategic resources, is paramount and the US is increasingly relying on coercion.
The Bush administration has spent trillions of dollars to expand a war machine that has already outstripped the rest of the world combined.
The report, Rebuilding America’s Defense, drawn up by the neo-conservative Project for the New American Century, said in 2000 that the US military’s task is to “preserve American pre-eminence through the coming transformation of war made possible by new technologies”.
A key issue for the US is maintaining its supremacy by preventing the emergence of any other potentially competing power or government independent of its control.
Stephen Rosen, in “The Future of War and the American Military” in the Harvard Review (May-June 2002), wrote: “ … our goal is … maintaining our imperial position, and maintaining imperial order … Now we are in the business of bringing down hostile governments and creating governments favourable to us … Finally, imperial strategy focuses on preventing the emergence of powerful, hostile challengers to the empire: by war if necessary, but by imperial assimilation if possible.” Rosen was Director of the neo-conservative Olin Institute for Strategic Studies at Harvard University. He also worked in the Department of Defense, the National Security Council, and the Naval War College. He was a founding member of the Project for a New American Century.
A seismic shift is taking place in world affairs as the major Asian countries strengthen their political, economic and military relations creating the potential for a counterbalance to unfettered US military power.
This emerging bloc of nations is not only built on military power and cooperation but on the steadily growing economic might of China, India and to a lesser extent, Russia. Their economies are growing at a rapid pace, their exports to other countries are massive, their imports of raw materials are huge and oil agreements and the necessary oil and gas pipelines between the countries in the region are being constructed.
President Bush entered the White House in early 2001 with a clear strategic objective: to resurrect the permanent-dominance doctrine spelled out in the Defense Planning Guidance for 1994-99, the first formal statement of US strategic goals in the post-Soviet era.
According to this document (at least as leaked to the press in early 1992), the primary aim of US strategy would be to bar the rise of any future competitor that might challenge America’s overwhelming military superiority.
By the time the second Bush administration came into office, China was identified as this future competitor. Only China, it was claimed, possessed the economic and military capacity to challenge the United States as an aspiring superpower. Maintaining US global dominance meant containing Chinese power.
The Pentagon’s February 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review says: “Of the major and emerging powers, China has the greatest potential to compete militarily with the United States and field disruptive military technologies that could over time offset traditional US military advantages”.
The Pentagon is engaged in an extensive build-up of military forces as part of a strategy to strengthen and position US and allied forces to contain and defeat China.
Its second major priority is securing the natural resources, cheap labour and increasing productive strength of the region for the US transnationals.
The build-up includes changes in deployments of aircraft-carrier battle groups, the conversion of nuclear-missile submarines and the regular dispatch of bombers to areas close to targets in China. Other less visible activities include large-scale military exercises, and expanding military alliances and training with regional allies.
The rapid force transformation approved by Bush and Rumsfeld is well underway. In a few years it will give US forces in Asia greater power and speedier response times.
The island of Guam in the western Pacific Ocean is a key element in the plan. Strategic bombers deployed there can reach targets throughout Asia, particularly China, within three hours. A total of US$5 billion is being spent to develop facilities for ships, submarines and bombers on Guam.
The Pentagon is shifting 60 per cent of its submarine forces to the Pacific and Asia. The US Navy currently has five of its eleven aircraft carriers in the Pacific, and intends to bring this to six by 2010.
Militarising the region
With militarisation comes the violation of human and political rights, violence against women and children, exploitation of limited social and physical infrastructure, particularly in communities where poverty is already common, challenges to health, including rising levels of cancers, the eradication of whole ways of life, particularly among indigenous peoples the threat of extensive environmental damage, and the toxic and radioactive contamination of people and nature.
In response there are growing struggles for liberation and independence in the region. They are based on the struggles of the people for an end to their poverty, for basics such as clean drinking water, jobs, health care, shelter, education and for land and Indigenous rights. People want peace, democracy, dignity and genuine freedom.
The following material focuses on United States military plans in the Pacific. It is an overview and is not intended to be comprehensive. It does not examine the various resistance movements that are growing in the region.
On June 4, 2005, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld gave a speech in Singapore, signalling what was to be a new emphasis in White House policy making. He criticised what he called China’s ongoing military build-up and warned of the threat he alleged it poses to regional peace and stability.
The Bush administration’s strategy was spelt out in the Pentagon’s 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review. The QDR states that the United States will not allow the rise of a competing superpower. It then identifies China as the most likely and dangerous competitor of this sort.
“The United States will develop capabilities that would present any adversary with complex and multidimensional challenges and complicate its offensive planning efforts,” the QDR says. These include the steady enhancement of such “enduring US advantages” as “long-range strike, stealth, operational manoeuvre and sustainment of air, sea, and ground forces at strategic distances, air dominance, and undersea warfare.”
Preparing for war with China will also provide additional super profits for the US armaments corporations. It will, for example, be the primary justification for the acquisition of costly new weapons systems such as the F-22A Raptor air-superiority fighter, the multi-service Joint Strike Fighter, the DDX destroyer, the Virginia-class nuclear attack submarine, and a new, intercontinental penetrating bomber.
The growing economic influence of China is creating a conflict in US ruling circles between those with massive investments involving China counselling moderation and those without seeking destabilisation and war preparations.
Washington hawks continue trying to stir up anti-Beijing antagonisms in Taiwan. But more cautious voices warn that the gigantic arms transfers to Taiwan from the US may wind up in China’s arsenal.
Economic ties between Taipei and Beijing have become so substantial that many analysts predict the rise of a pro-China government.
Analyst Henry Liu, writing in the Asia Times, observes that “the US Navy is now dependent on Asia, and eventually China, to build its new ships, and eventually the economics of trade will force the US Air Force to procure planes made in Asia and assembled in China”.
The US has been trying to draw India into its anti-China bloc. However, the major oil companies of India and China have joined forces to buy Petro-Canada’s 37 per cent stake in Syrian oil fields for US$573 million. There are suggestions that this is only the first of a number of collaborations.
China’s state-owned energy firm has just completed a US$100 billion deal to take a leading role in developing a vast oilfield in Iran.
China is complicating US relations with its traditional ally. It has agreed to a deal with BP of Britain that would make this energy firm Beijing’s biggest overseas partner. King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia visited Beijing and signed a comprehensive energy cooperation agreement.
China has strengthened its ties with Russia, whose own relations with Washington are sharply deteriorating as the US tries to put missile defence equipment in Poland and the Czech Republic and NATO continues to expand.
Gerald Horne in Political Affairs (Communist Party USA) asks: “Is it too early to suggest that instead of being marked as a stroke of genius, Nixon’s trailblazing visit to Beijing some 35 years ago may be marked as the beginning of the end for US imperialism?”
Out of eight major military pacts, which the US constructed worldwide after 1945, five were in the Asia-Pacific region. They include the ANZUS agreement, the UK-USA intelligence sharing agreement, and the so-called “defence” treaties with Japan and South Korea. Australia is party to another such pact, the Five Power Defence Agreement involving Britain, New Zealand, Malaysia, Singapore and Australia.
The Bush administration’s efforts to contain China have three broad objectives: to convert existing relations with Japan, Australia, and South Korea into an integrated anti-Chinese alliance system; to bring other nations, especially India, into this system; and to expand US military capabilities in the Asia-Pacific region.
In recent years, by negotiating bilateral security agreements, the US military has formed a Pacific military alliance.
Bringing Australia into this emerging anti-Chinese network has been a major priority. The meetings of Australian, US and Japanese representatives at the recent (September 2007) APEC meeting in Sydney was clearly intended to deepen a three-way regional alliance aimed at China.
An even bigger prize, in Washington’s view, would be the integration of India into this emerging alliance system. Such a move was long frustrated by congressional objections to India’s nuclear weapons program and its refusal to sign on to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. This has been overcome by Bush’s recent pact with India and by Australia’s agreement to sell uranium to India.
Shanghai Co-operation Organisation
The Shanghai Co-operation Organisation (SCO) was formed in Shanghai in 2001 following the US invasion of Afghanistan and initially comprised Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. It was soon joined by Uzbekistan.
The SCO has now been joined as observers by India, Pakistan, Iran and Mongolia.
These countries contain about half the world’s population, have enormous resources and economic clout and possess a huge pool of scientific and technological know-how. They occupy a very favourable strategic location in terms of geographical position. All these factors indicate that the SCO will wield considerable influence throughout the rest of the world and this will not be limited to Asia.
Deputy Russian Foreign Minister Alexander Yakovenko says that the SCO is “a unique political chance and a basically new model of geopolitical integration”. He says that it is “an open organisation of partners, aimed at maintaining peace and stability in the region and developing broad international cooperation.”
“The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) countries are going to be the new powerhouse of the world. It is in India’s enlighten ed interest that we understand its importance as we are a country which desperately needs energy”, Communist Party of India (Marxist) General Secretary Prakash Karat said in October 2006. “Trilateral cooperation between India, China and Russia has symbolic significance as it can dispel the notion that the 21st century is an American century.”
“This will be an Asian century,” Karat said. “Two countries, India and China, are to power Asia through their economic growth and political clout.”
The 2006 summit meeting of the SCO called for “mutual trust, mutual benefit, equality, consultation, respect for multi-civilisations and pursuit of common development”. This meeting of the heads of states called it the “Shanghai Spirit” and said that it is of “critical importance to the international community’s pursuit of a new and non-confrontational model of international relations, a model that calls for discarding the Cold War mentality and transcending ideological differences”.
Directing the US transformation in the Asia-Pacific region is the Pacific Command (PACOM), headquartered on the island of O’ahu in Hawai’i.
PACOM commands about 300,000 military personnel from Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps, one third of which are forward deployed — meaning they are based closer to the Asian continent than Hawai’i.
PACOM is responsible for US military operations for over 50 per cent of the world’s surface. This is an area of 260,000,000 square kms stretching from the west coast of America to the east coast of Africa, from the Arctic to the Antarctic.
PACOM covers nearly 60 per cent of the world’s population, consisting of 43 countries, 20 territories and possessions, and 10 US territories.
The PACOM area is responsible for 35 per cent of US global trade (compared to 19 per cent with the European Union, 20 per cent with Canada, and 18 per cent with Latin America).
Asia and Pacific nations, not including the US, account for 34 per cent of the Gross World Product. The US accounts for 21 per cent.
In addition, the PACOM region contains the world’s six largest armed forces — US, China, Russia, India, North Korea and South Korea.
The US Pacific Fleet (PACFLT) is headquartered at Pearl Harbour, Hawai’i. The world’s largest naval command, PACFLT controls more than 213,000 sailors, marines and civilians, approximately 190 ships, about 1,400 aircraft, and 35 shore installations.
PACFLT makes approximately 700 port visits throughout the Pacific region each year, including regular visits to Australian ports.
PACOM has air forces based throughout the north-western Pacific.
PACOM plans include building up Palau, an archipelago of 20,000 inhabitants between the Philippines and the Federated States of Micronesia.
PACOM’s task is not just training in Brunei, flying test sorties with the Indian air force, conducting major annual exercises in Thailand, utilising training facilities in Australia, and so forth. It is also a matter of forging interoperability with friendly Asian militaries by moving US troops from one training deployment to another.
Military exercises play a part in the US military transformation in the Pacific.
In 2005-2006 alone PACOM organised and/or hosted 1,700 exercises and other activities throughout the Pacific and Indian Ocean regions, all developing interoperability under the Pentagon’s umbrella.
The Navy’s 7th Fleet is increasing the number of its exercises. They will include war games with India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, Australia, the Philippines, South Korea and Japan.
RIMPAC (Rim of the Pacific) is a large scale multinational power projection and sea control exercise involving participants from the US, Canada, Australia, Japan, South Korea, Chile and Britain.
Valiant Shield in June 2006 was the largest Pacific exercise since the Vietnam era. It brought together three Carrier Strike Groups with 20,000 troops, 300 aircraft, and 28 vessels under PACOM command. The exercise took place off Guam and had observers from more than 40 countries, including China, Japan, India, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, South Korea, Russia and Australia.
The US military rates Australia highly for its ability to provide training arenas for its troops and Australia is set to become one of the highest-priority training grounds for the US in the world.
This is explicit in the formal agreement between Australia and the US which established the Joint Combined Training Centre which includes the Shoalwater Bay Training Area in Queensland, the Delamere Air Weapons Range and Bradshaw Land Warfare training area in the Northern Territory.
The Memorandum of Understanding between the US and Australia specifically refers to the need for the planes, ships and submarines based in Guam or rotated to Guam from Hawai’i or the US continent to have access to training facilities which only Australia can provide.
Missile defence plays a role in the US military build-up in Asia and the Pacific, particularly through development of Australian and Japanese missile defence systems.
The US military is developing a base on Guam for a Patriot Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) task force. The BDM facility, expected to be constructed by 2012, will give the Army the capacity to intercept and shoot down incoming missiles.
Developed by the US Navy, the Aegis Combat System (“aegis” is Greek for “shield”) is a surface-to-air weapons platform. It operates as a computer-based command-and-decision system, capable of simultaneous anti-air, anti-surface and anti-submarine warfare.
The US intends to base the Aegis combat system in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Australia, essentially surrounding the coast of China.
The Howard Government decided to spend $6 billion on three air-warfare destroyers to be based off the coast of West Australia. The RAN’s three new warships which are now under construction are Aegis-equipped.
Japan’s Kongo-class destroyers are equipped with the Aegis system and the US Navy deployed a destroyer equipped with the Aegis combat system in the Sea of Japan in September 2004.
The Howard Government announced in November 2003 that Australia would become involved in the United States “missile defence” program.
Pine Gap, 20 kms southeast of Alice Springs, is one of the largest and most important US war fighting and intelligence bases in the world. It is a satellite ground control station. Pine Gap’s most important role is processing information gathered by satellites and transmitting that information to the United States.
The satellites span a strategically important third of the globe, encompassing China, southern Russia and the Middle East oil fields.
US satellites transmitting through Pine Gap monitor missile launches and military, economic, political and domestic telephone, microwave and VHF radio communications from allies and enemies alike.
They provide photographic surveillance of terrain, buildings, troop movements, the results of bombing raids, etc. The satellites can also intercept the signals of anti-ballistic missile radars and early-warning radars.
A Satellite Relay Ground Station at Pine Gap controls the US Defence Support Program (DSP). The DSP satellites have infrared sensors which detect the hot exhaust plumes of missiles in their boost phase just after launching.
New radomes at Pine Gap are connected to a new satellite system, the Space Based Infra-Red System (SBIRS), which is a key element in missile defence.
Australia’s Jindalee Operational Radar Network (JORN) is now an important component of the US Star Wars program.
In 2004 former Defence Minister Robert Hill said: “This project at a cost of approximately $62 million over a number of years will … support further research on the capability to address ballistic missile threats.”
April 2004 trials, conducted around Darwin with US officials present, were successful in detecting a target, demonstrating “the feasibility of applying JORN to missile defence,” Senator Hill said.
The militarisation of the north-west Pacific is anchored around the small island of Guam east of the Philippines.
Guam offers the US military proximity to its potential targets and the advantages of being US territory so the Pentagon can act there without seeking permission from allies.
Many of the Chamoru, the indigenous people of Guam, have welcomed the economic benefits they believe flow from the US presence.
However, they are concerned about the negative social and environmental impacts of militarisation and the loss of their culture. Their movement for independence and sovereignty is growing in strength and support.
Guam is about three hours’ flying time and two to three days by ship from Japan and Indonesia. Flying to China or North Korea from the US takes 13 hours, from Guam it takes four.
Guam is strategically located close to several of the world’s most important sea lanes, such as the Strait of Malacca, through which some 50 per cent of the world’s oil passes each year.
Andersen Air Force Base, on Guam’s northern tip, represents the future of US strategy in the Pacific. It is the most potent platform anywhere in the world for the projection of American military power.
The Air Force plans to upgrade Anderson Air Force Base so strategic bombers can be based there. The bombers are equipped with precision-guided bombs such as cruise missiles.
The Air Force is also preparing for the deployment of tanker aircraft and fighter planes, including the F-22 Raptor. Construction has begun on a project to house up to 10 Global Hawks.
No other Air Force base in the Pacific stores as much weaponry as Andersen — some 100,000 bombs and cruise and other missiles at any one time. Andersen also stores 66 million gallons of jet fuel, making it the Air Force’s biggest strategic depot in the world.
The Navy has turned its port at Guam’s Apra Harbour into a home for two (possibly eventually four) Los Angeles-class nuclear-powered attack submarines, each equipped with up to 150 cruise missiles.
It also plans to refurbish wharves to accommodate aircraft carriers and to transform Guam into a base for its new Littoral Combat Ship (a shallow-draft stealth ship designed to operate close to shore) and for Trident submarines.
The Tridents, immense craft converted to fire Tomahawk cruise missiles, can also be used by Navy Special Operations Forces. Guam is already home to an undisclosed number of Navy SEALs and their number is expected to grow.
As the US consolidates its forces, Guam is facing a doubling of the military troops stationed there.
Washington and Tokyo have agreed to move 8,000 Marines to Guam from Okinawa by 2014, at a cost of $10 billion (60 per cent of which will be paid by the Japanese government). The build-up means a total increase in Guam’s population (which is currently just 170,000) of 35,000.
Guam’s new capabilities are designed for more than just low-intensity conflicts. The attack submarines, for example, are clearly aimed at the possibility of a naval confrontation with China over the Taiwan Strait. Similarly, the stationing of F-22s and tanker planes on Guam points to the Pentagon’s desire to ensure dominance in the air should it fight the Chinese.
The defeat of Japan’s far-right government headed by Shinzo Abe in the July 2007 elections and Abe’s subsequent resignation has undermined the Japanese right’s plans to recraft the post-war Japanese state through a revision of the 1946 Constitution.
However, it is not clear whether the trend towards increasing military closeness with the US will also be halted and reversed.
Abe’s government had vowed to repeal Article 9 of the Constitution which renounces war and rejects “force as a means of settling international disputes”.
Under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe Japan sent troops to Iraq. After the troops left, three Japanese planes began regularly transporting American troops and cargo from Kuwait to Baghdad. Japanese authorities refuse to say whether the planes have transported weapons besides those carried by soldiers.
Japan’s 241,000-member military is considered Asia’s most sophisticated. Its $40 billion military budget has ranked among the world’s top five in recent years. Japan has also tapped non-military budgets to launch spy satellites and strengthen its coast guard recently.
Alliance with US
In February 2005, US officials Condoleeza Rice and Donald Rumsfeld hosted a meeting in Washington with top Japanese officials at which an agreement was signed to improve cooperation in military affairs between the two countries.
Known as the “Joint Statement of the US-Japan Security Consultative Committee”, the agreement called for greater collaboration between American and Japanese forces in the conduct of military operations in an area stretching from Northeast Asia to the South China Sea.
The recent Alliance Transformation and Realignment Report is a guide for the further integration of US and Japanese forces in the Pacific and the simultaneous restructuring of US bases in Japan.
Japan and the US are also engaged in a joint “interoperability” study, aimed at smoothing the “interface” between US and Japanese combat and communications systems.
“Close collaboration is also ongoing for cooperative missile defence,” according to Admiral William Fallon, PACOM Commander-in-Chief.
Today, Japan is America’s biggest partner in developing and financing a missile defence shield in Asia. Some Japanese ground and air force commands are also moving inside American bases in Japan so that the two forces will become interoperable.
Japan has agreed to pay two-thirds of the estimated total US$15 billion required for the relocation of US troops from Japan to Guam.
The limited relocation of the Okinawa-based Marines to Guam is not driven by US strategic plans.
It is an attempt by the Japanese and US governments to reduce social tension and the environmental impact of large numbers of US troops and aircraft on Okinawa.
However, Japanese trade with China has grown to such an extent that China has now replaced the United States as Japan’s largest trading partner for the first time since World War II.
Agreement with Australia
On March 12 Australia signed a Joint Declaration on Security Cooperation (JDSC) with Japan, confirming the trend for both Japan and Australia to militarise their foreign policies.
The security agreement covers defence exchange, training, and intelligence exchange. It is the strongest security arrangement Japan has with any nation other than the US.
The then Australian Prime Minister, John Howard said: “One of the reasons why it has been possible to move towards this joint declaration is the close partnership between Australia and Japan in Iraq.”
Japan is acquiring weapons that blur the lines between defensive and offensive. Its newest fighter jets, the F-2’s, the first developed jointly by Japan and the US, are able to fly the 1,700 miles from northern Japan to Guam without refuelling.
The United States has welcomed the changes while pressing for more.
To take part in its annual exercises with the US, Japan practiced dropping 500-pound live bombs on Farallon de Medinilla, a tiny island in the Northern Marianas.
The exercise was significant. Dropping live bombs on land had long been considered too offensive, so much so that Japan does not have a single live-bombing range.
Japan recently indicated a strong desire to buy the F-22 Raptor, a stealth fighter known mainly for its offensive abilities such as penetrating contested airspace and destroying enemy targets.
Given its strategic location, South Korea remains important for Pentagon planners. However, the US relationship with South Korea is contradictory and difficult. Recent Korean governments have experienced internal conflicts over how to deal with pressure from the US and a rising desire for independence from American domination.
A January 2004 poll indicated that South Koreans now consider the US a greater threat than North Korea.
South Korea’s President has warned that relations between his nation and the US would suffer if Washington were to try to overthrow its main regional target after China, North Korea.
Improved relations between Seoul and Beijing have influenced South Korea to put distance between itself and the US imperialism.
US Ambassador to South Korea Alexander Vershbow caused uproar when he called North Korea a “criminal regime”. He had to cancel a meeting in a central Seoul office after the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions formed a blockade and refused to guarantee the ambassador’s safety.
South Korea recently equipped one of its destroyers with the advanced Aegis anti-missile weapons system. This is the same US built system that is being introduced in Japan and Korea.
The US is returning 66 bases to South Korea by 2011 as part of its global military realignment plans. Of these, 23 have been handed over so far.
However, the US bases are being replaced by South Korean ones. Using these as staging grounds, the US is creating a Rapid Deployment Force operating without the problem of having to deal with local protests or the expenses incurred by having to maintain bases on foreign soil.
The US will give up 170 million square meters of land but South Korea will provide the US with 12 million square meters to expand Camp Humphreys to accommodate the headquarters of the US Forces in Korea.
The US has military plans which are a blueprint for pre-emptive strikes at North Korean military sites and the overthrow of the DPRK government, along with American occupation — all of which would be staged from the south.
Some 37,000 American soldiers are stationed in South Korea. The US has agreed to the phased withdrawal of 12,000 troops to be completed by 2011.
Hawai’i (indigenous name, Ka Pai’aina) is the headquarters of the US Pacific Command (PACOM).
The small island of O’ahu, on which PACOM is headquartered, has 25 per cent of its land under military control.
Much of the remainder of the land is under tourism or plantations, and the Kanaka Maoli (indigenous Hawai’ians) are a minority in their ancestral land.
Much of the land is badly contaminated as a result of militarisation, including by depleted uranium in some places.
Since September 11, Hawai’ian facilities have been considerably expanded. This includes land grabs for training areas for various US military units and for jungle warfare and urban warfare training.
Communication and command facilities have been extended in places like Mahaka Ridge, and at the NASA military space program on the sacred mountain of Mauna Kea.
The Navy has created an Office for Missile Defense Operations to take command of all “testing and deployment” of naval missile defence systems. With these systems and outfitted with Aegis destroyers home-ported in Japan, the Navy can situate its vessels 100 kms off the coast of North Korea or China.
This year Hawai’i’s Governor went to Indonesia to establish a military cooperation agreement called a State Partnership Program (SPP). There is already a Hawai’i-Guam-Philippines SPP.
The Marshall Islands have the unenviable role of being the main site of US nuclear testing. In the 1940s and 1950s the US detonated 67 thermonuclear tests on the small islands of Bikini and Enewetak.
Some 60 per cent of the Marshall Islands’ GDP comes from US aid and the 50-year Pact of Free Association that allows the US to use Kwajalein Atoll for missile tests.
The US only got the pact by engineering a change in the Marshall Island’s Constitution that allows a simple majority of legislators to approve the Association. Before this change, Marshallese voters had rejected the pact eight times.
Kwajalein is the target zone in a network of military facilities across the northern Pacific (including Hawai’i and Vandenburg Air Force Base in California) which is central to the US development of missile delivery systems and space warfare technology.
Kwajalein is the “gem in the crown”, according to Lieutenant-General John Costello, head of the US Army’s Space and Missile Defence Command: It is the “singular place where all the capabilities exist to gauge the success or failure of missile defence systems” .
However, the current land use agreement expires in 2016. The US Ambassador to the Marshall Islands, Clyde Bishop, says the US is not planning to leave in 2016 but the landowners say they will not accept another 70 years of failing services and inhuman conditions.
For the past three years, Ebeye islanders have been struggling with a failing power plant, sewage pouring out on streets when power is off, and water shortages. The population on Ebeye and the 1,300 Marshallese contract workers living there become susceptible to disease from untreated sewage as well as food-borne illness created by the lack of refrigeration.
All land in the Marshall Islands is privately held, and until the landowners agree, the US and Marshall Islands government cannot enforce a deal that they signed in 2003 extending American operations at Kwajalein until 2086.
The Howard Government signed up Australia as a front line collaborator with US global war plans, providing specialist military forces and a secure base for US electronic and satellite spying activities.
Australia plays an increasing role in the militarisation of the north-west Pacific, through a formal Australian-US military alliance backed by the ANZUS treaty and informed by a series of Australian-US Defence Ministerial Consultations (AUSMIN) which have been held annually since 1985.
Australia has signed a Joint Declaration on Security Cooperation with Japan.
Australia has troops in Iraq, as well as the Solomon Islands, East Timor, and Tonga.
US bases in Australia
There are almost 40 US military facilities in Australia. They include facilities to spy on domestic and international phone calls (Echelon), bases for spying and targeting (Pine Gap), and US military communication bases (Geraldton).
The number of Australian troops involved in the invasion and occupation of Iraq is small. However, the role of the satellite ground station at Pine Gap was crucial for the United States aggression against Iraq.
Pine Gap is one of the largest and most important US satellite ground control stations in the world. The satellites monitored by Pine Gap have a footprint that covers the most important areas of US strategic interest — China, southern Russia and the Middle East oilfields.
At Geraldton, on Australia’s west coast, the Bush Administration is building a base. When completed, it will control two geostationary satellites that feed intelligence to US military forces in Asia and the Middle East. Two or three more of these bases will follow.
The Australian military already has its ostensibly Australian Echelon base at Geraldton. Controlled by the US National Security Agency, Echelon has been designed primarily for non-military targets — governments, organisations, business and individuals — and its vast scope means that individuals in virtually every country can be its target. With the growth in world trade and globalisation, the advantage held by the US through its collection of economic information is obvious.
The Howard Government agreed to a new tank base in Darwin which will provide another facility for the US military to exploit. The ADF will be able to use US-owned tanks and to train together with US personnel.
Darwin is a port city ideally placed to control of the strategic Timor Gap naval passage and for US plans for containment of China.
It is also no accident that Halliburton, US Vice-President Dick Cheney’s corporation, has recently built what is a strategic railway from Alice Springs (near Pine Gap) to Darwin.
In an accelerating militarisation of Australian society, the Howard Government began spending billions establishing new US military bases in the north, buying three warships with long-range anti-missile capabilities, upgrading radar facilities for the US “missile defence” program, turning the Australian Defence Force into a de facto arm of the US military, and buying new aircraft and tanks.
The Federal Government’s Defence Capability Plan, announced on February 4, 2004, revealed plans to spend $50 billion on military equipment projects over the next ten years, on top of the current $55 million a day spent on the military.
This spending is on items that fit into support for US pre-emptive strike plans but have little if anything to do with the security of the Australian people.
Emphasis has been given to ensuring Australian supremacy in long-range delivery systems and strike forces providing the ability to launch pre-emptive strikes and to intervene in the affairs of regional nations.
The decision to purchase a dozen Global Hawk spy planes from the US is part of the government’s plans.
The Global Hawk is an unmanned spy plane capable of operating for 24 hours without refuelling and has a reported range of 4800 kms.
It is not hard to imagine the Global Hawks flying over China and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, monitoring troop movements, building of industries, progress of food crops and many other targets of strategic or economic interest to US transnational corporations.
The ANZUS treaty has become a cover for aggression in the region. It does not contain specific commitments or any guarantee that the US will assist Australia in times of need, even though it speaks vaguely about “consultation” and “action in accordance with constitutional processes”.
The military and trade treaty agreed by the US and Australia during the September 2007 APEC meeting signals even greater belligerence, more spying, more war games and an arms build up.
Australia signed on for three new “training bases” with the US military at the annual Australian-US Ministerial Consultations in Washington in July 2004.
Australia and the US agreed to develop a Joint Combined Training Centre which will include state-of-the-art technology that allows commanders to oversee the exercises in real time, then replay missions in debriefs to personnel.
Facilities at the Shoalwater Bay Training Area in Queensland and the Bradshaw Land Training Area and Delamere Air Weapons Range in the Northern Territory will be developed at the cost of tens of millions of dollars. The three facilities will be linked with the United States and Hawai’i.
Former Australian Defence Minister Robert Hill announced in Washington on November 20, 2003 that joint exercises and other measures would be taken to ensure “seamless interoperability” between the United States and Australian military.
Interoperability is the process of the gradual fusion of the Australian Defence Force into a de-facto arm of the United States military.